What Have I Accomplished?

What Have I Accomplished?
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As I gear up to enter the next decade of my life, I find myself at a curious crossroads -- the intersection of WHO and WHAT, one of those strange intersections far out of town where the sagebrush rolls and the GPS signal is just out of range. Sitting in the front seat of my leased 2015 Honda, wondering how I gained the last five pounds, I ask myself a question highly unlikely to make me the life of the party: "Have I done anything of significance these past 69 years?”

It's an age-old dilemma, methinks, a classic rite-of-passage -- the time when a man takes stock of himself and realizes his so called "portfolio" of accomplishments doesn't necessarily measure up to what he imagined it would one day be. And though I have always felt a breathtaking magnificence inside me, outwardly much of what I have expressed, in this life, seems to have been lost in translation -- not unlike a child's game of "telephone" where you whisper something to the person next to you and they, in turn, whisper it to the person next to them and so on and so forth around the circle until the last person blurts what they've heard -- a jumble of words not even remotely close to what it was the started the whole game.

Two months shy of 70, focused more, today, on the butterflies in my tummy than the ones that herald spring, I find myself looking in two directions at once. One is forward, trying to make out what I see with the time I have left. The other is backwards, trying to make sense of the forces that have brought me to this precise moment in time.

What I see, behind me, is my father coming home from a long day's work. He's exhausted, unsettled, my mother greeting him with a martini and the officiousness of a 50's housewife, me tentatively approaching, receiving a quick hug and the all-too-familiar question my father routinely greeted me with: "What have you ACCOMPLISHED today?" -- a kind of Zen Cohen that always left me feeling I hadn't done enough. Yes, I played roofball and punchball and kickball and stickball. And yes, I played with my dog and read the backs of my baseball cards. But did I accomplish anything? Did I do anything that really mattered?

The older I got, the more my father's accomplishment mantra embedded its way into my psyche, a kind of microscopic parasite a person might pick up on a quick trip to a third world country. And though I couldn't see it, I could feel it -- radiating outwards, driving me to DO, DO, DO -- moving me to create something I considered significant -- something meaningful enough I could sign my name to once and for all.

My friends, I think it is time for me (and maybe, you, too) to answer the question my father used to ask. Ready? IT'S THE WRONG QUESTION. While the intention may be harmless, the act of being ruled by it is not. "The foolish man is always doing," said Lao Tzu, "yet much remains to be done. The wise man does nothing, yet nothing remains undone."

Kapish? In the end, there is nothing to do! Nothing to prove! Zero. Nada. Zilch. Unless we can live fully in this present moment where everything is already perfect, our life will never be more than a programmed/neurotic/obsessive attempt to achieve -- a carrot dangled in front of us by the collective hallucination that we have never really done enough.

Face it. There is absolutely nothing we can do that will ever be enough compared to the outcome we IMAGINE it should be. Maybe that's why Van Gogh cut off his ear. Maybe that's why countless creative souls drink too much and think too much. You see, the obsession with proving our worth is a losing game. First of all, the self does not need to be proven. It is already complete just the way it is. And second of all, there is no second of all.

THIS is the moment. THIS. NOW. HERE. Just the way it is.

In the end, what we do is way less important than how we do it. When that recognition dawns, joy replaces struggle, gratitude replaces complaint, and everything comes to us in its own, sweet time.

Mitch Ditkoff is the President of Idea Champions and the author of Storytelling at Work.

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